I thought today was going to be boring. I was wrong.
Got up particularly early today to compensate for being behind schedule. While having dinner and packing down camp by the light of my headlamp, I suddenly looked up and gasped as I two eyes were starring directly at me from twenty feet away. A split second later, however, I realized it was one out of four deer that had sneaked up on me on either side of tent. They are surprisingly stealthy animals in terms of sounds, I think. They backed up slightly and continued eating plants.
The hiking today started out quite easily without much elevation change. Parts of the trail were quite wet and buggy, though. I crossed Dorothy Pass, which wasn’t anything special, and did one ford for which I had to get my feet wet, but my shoes eventually dried out. I also passed the 1000 miles marker. That is the most digits I’ve yet seen in a mile marker, just to use a superlative.
I eventually made it to the area near Sonora Pass, which I didn’t really had thought much of. The snow report and Guthooks weren’t that informative regarding the snow situation there, but I didn’t anticipate a lot given the elevation. I was wrong on both fronts. The views from the top were spectacular, and aside from Whitney (which technically isn’t PCT), possibly the greatest I have yet seen. Sonora Pass is the where the paved road crosses The Sierra, but by many, including me here, we use Sonora Pass to refer to the surrounding nature along the PCT. Anyways, the first climb was easy as there were long gradual switchbacks and only an unproblematic snow patch on the very top. From the top the was a very nice view into the valley where the trail took us. Unlike most passes, however, the trail stayed near the ridge for quite some time. It brought us into a second valley with equally interesting views, but there unfortunately was quite a lot of long and semi steep snow patches that would have to be crossed. Had my microspikes on for some of them, and because of my technique of kicking my steps in as well as preferably having a minimum three points of contact at any top be it trekking poles or feet, things went slowly. The trail then passed into a third valley which also was quite nicely looking. It also had not that nice snow patches that took time and to cross. The trail then went back to the first valley followed by a trip to a fifth one. Yet more snow patches and one of them steep enough to be called a chute, I’d say. It was all stunningly beautiful, but also a bit scary partly because of not knowing what would be next. With a delay of maybe three hours with the sun starting to dip. I finally and in a tired state neared the bottom and met a couple of hikers going up. I said that I personally would recommend waiting until the morning and further it would be very late before they would get to proper camp sites on the other side of all of it. I don’t know what they decided on, but they told me there was trail magic at the trailhead. That would be super nice indeed after all these exertions. I hurried up and halfway ran (which I hadn’t thought myself capable of at this stage) the last part of the now snow free trail, and made it to the trail magic maybe fifteen minutes later only to find the trail angels and hikers packing things down. I said hi, but no one seemed to pay attention. I had missed it. Still, I hoped to maybe be offered some small piece of food or something. The cherries went away, then the muffins, and soon all the food was gone. Then the large printed “Look mom, I just hiked 1000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail”-banner went down. This all made me profoundly sad, which I admit that I feel somewhat ashamed of saying. It would be nice with just some kind of symbolic gesture and or a small chat to remedy the harshness of the day. It probably also would mean a lot more for someone traveling alone like me. I regretted not histrionically announcing, “Oh no! did I miss it?“ or something along those lines to have brought some more attention to myself. Instead I sat and had my cold soaked noodles, which I had wanted to eat some time ago but postponed because I really wanted to get off the mountains, and some cold mashed garlic potatoes, which I didn’t really like but it was the only flavor that there was in Lee Vining. I tried to strike up a conversation, but people were busy and probably also tired after a long day. Eventually, after most of the stuff had been packed down, the trail angel that was still at the site asked what my name was as he wanted to pen it down in a small book with people that he had given trail magic. At first I thought that wasn’t right. He hadn’t said hi, hadn’t really acknowledged my presence or offered me anything. This was me being tired/disappointed and not being entirely fair. Circumnavigating this knee jerk reflex, I eventually said something along the lines of “Well, I came here later, after the fact. Alright, it is >>Mads<<” and he wrote my name in his little book. We then got to talk a bit, which gave me some solace. He was a trail maintainer overseeing the sections adjacent to Sonora Pass. He jokingly made me promise to not cut any switchbacks here. I said that the winter seemed to have been a bit hard on the trail and that I’d think there was a lot of work going into keeping the trail in shape and how beautiful I had found the section. He said that he was sorry that I missed the food. I said that there of course was nothing to apologize for.
I promised myself to bring more interesting food for the next stretch. I then walked about a mile further and camped. Despite the setbacks on the pass, at 30.5 miles, I think this had been the most miles I’ve ever done in a day. I was thus back on track with my schedule for this stretch of the trail.